Injured runners have nothing to loose and everything to gain. They are determined and open to new ways of thinking. This was the case with these two lovely ladies I had the pleasure to coach. I too came to barefoot and minimal shoe running through injury and it is still liberating to have everything to gain.
The first thing I do is to video the runner in their regular shoes like they would run on a regular day. Its always a fun Aha moment to see yourself running for the first time and everyone is surprised that they look different than they do in their heads. Myself included. Video is a fabulous tool.
In the before photo (taken from video) you can see that she is heel striking. Notice she is heel striking in minimal shoes. It is absolutely possible and quite common to not change form after putting on minimal shoes like you might think. You just run like you did before but with lighter less cushioned shoes with more than likely a zero drop and you just go out and pound away. Lots of injuries are coming from that. Gentle, smooth, lite. Quick steps, strong posture, not pounding the pavement and certainly not with your heel. If you can't feel what you are doing its easy to go too hard. That's one of the reasons the training is done bare.
Her heel strike is not super forceful but there is some overstriding and the trailing leg is way out there. She was SHOCKED to see herself heel striking. Her posture is pretty great and so working on cadence,getting the feet to land under her center of gravity, and changing where on her foot she lands is whats we worked on.
The above photo is taken from the after video done barefoot. This is about an hour and a half after working together. All of the drills and training we do is done barefoot to get the brain to relearn how to feel what the feet are doing. Proprioception is how our body knows what shapes to make to in order to deal with the forces placed on us. Once you know how to move then you can transfer that to shoes but its best to learn it first barefoot. Its pure and honest.
Before and after photos together. You can see she is landing on the ball of the foot instead of heel striking. Her stride has also dramatically shortened as well. This shows a faster cadence.
This shows the stride length change. Again this shows a faster cadence. A cadence of 180 is optimal. We get the cadence change by working with a metronome and doing jumping exercises. Fun stuff!!
This is another before picture. She is a little tense. The three parts to our mantra are Posture, Rhythm, and Relax. The drills and exercises we do address each of the three pieces of the mantra.
Her posture is pretty good and something she had been focusing on for a while. She is also landing on the ball of the foot although she had a hard time landing on the first metatarsal and big toe then letting the rest of the ball of the foot spread out. She was landing on the outside or lateral part of the foot where the bones are smaller and less able to take the forces of running without injury.
Here is the after photo. Her posture looks great and she is not overstriding like before. She has work to do to stretch and lengthen the calf, achilles, and Plantar Fascia. She has a hard time putting her heel all the way to the ground even though it just has to land lightly and then lift off again.
Its important to let the heel touch the ground so it can aid in distributing the shock of contacting the ground. The squat work and cadence are her areas of homework.
This change will come with time and practice. It will take weeks if not months in fact for the body to adapt and change and its perfectly normal. Just hard to be patient!
Here are two different examples of showing the change in stride length and improved posture.
As you can see I kinda like to geek out on playing with the video software when analyzing form.
I send a composite video of before and after as well as a bunch of still photos and a write up of what I see and how to address it.
Its always nice to get feedback from my clients and friends. The first gal is now a barefoot runner for the summer to get her form really solid. She is having a blast and was surprised that she would love barefoot so much. Yay! Another barefooter out there!
Being a barefoot runner is about having fun and listening to your body.
Got questions?? Always feel free to ask away and most of all enjoy yourself.